Mumbai: The Bombay high court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an individual seeking directions to the Union Law Ministry and other authorities to amend and include an option for atheists to take oath on the Constitution of India in the Oaths Act, 1969.
The petitioner had contended that as atheists do not believe in God they are not allowed depose or file an affidavit in ongoing cases and hence a provision allowing them to take oath on the Constitution of India should be added to the Oaths Act.
A division bench of chief justice Dr Manjula Chellur and Justice G S Kulkarni was hearing the petition filed by Mumbaikar Sunil Mane wherein he had prayed for the court to direct the authorities to add a third option for atheists. He had cited two instances in cases being tried in lower courts wherein witnesses were not allowed to depose as they refused to take oath in the name of God by placing their hand on the Bhagvad Gita.
Mane’s petition said that the lower court’s refusal to accept the deposition by the witnesses could be remedied if a third option was added to the Oaths Act by allowing non-believers to take oath on the Constitution of India. The Oath Act, 1969 states that a person can either swear in the name of God or solemnly affirm to state the truth while either deposing in a court or filing an affidavit or any other application before a court.
After hearing the prayer, the bench noted that it could not give such directions as it was the prerogative of the lawmakers to decide whether an option to take oath on the Constitution of India can be permitted. “The two options clearly indicate that if a person is a believer in God or Almighty then he or she can take oath in the name of God and if they are not believers then they can solemnly affirm to state the truth. By saying God or Almighty, the Act has ensured that there is no reference or attachment to any religion, caste or creed,” said Chellur.